It's Tough Booking Beds On Amtrak

Posted: June 11, 1989

BOOM TIMES. It looks like another record summer for Amtrak, straining some of its cars to capacity. "There's plenty of coach space on most of our routes nationwide," says Amtrak spokeswoman Patricia Duricka, "but most of our long-distance routes are experiencing (a shortage of) first-class sleeping accommodations." People wanting beds on a train this summer should check every day, and people wanting them next summer should start reserving in August, Duricka advises. The Amtrak computer can hold reservations for 10 months, and there is no penalty if you change your plans.

Is there any let-up in sight to summer sleeper crowding? "We're working with the Congress to get additional capital funding to purchase more equipment," Duricka says, but no concrete proposals have emerged.

TRAM CLOSED. The tram to Victoria Peak in Hong Kong will clatter to a halt June 20 as work crews begin a modernization project that's scheduled to keep the tram shut down until Aug. 5. The 101-year-old funicular will get new cars, with capacity increased from 72 to 120 passengers, and their top speed will be bumped from about 30 m.p.h. to about 40 m.p.h. But the Hong Kong Tourist Association promises the tram will retain its "classic" styling.

GOING, GOING . . . If you're planning a trip to West Germany's trendiest (and mostly nude) beach resort, Sylt, better call ahead to make sure it's still there. That's what the Germans do. The coastline of Sylt, which extends seven miles into the North Sea, has been receding by an average of almost seven feet a year, and the erosion has picked up recently, blamed primarily on the melting polar ice cap. Heiner Huelsdonk, proprietor of a seafood spot at Sylt, told Reuters news service: "We've reached the point where the restaurant could be gone in one stormy night."

OPEN AND SHUT. The recent demonstrations in Beijing have overshadowed the unrest earlier this year in Tibet. Because of extensive political demonstrations, Tibet had been closed to tourism until early last month, when it was reopened to organized tours, with numerous restrictions. The situation in Tibet, however, remains fluid, and would-be visitors should be careful in committing funds or making plans to travel there this summer.

HIGHLIGHTS

BARGAIN. Here's a pretty good price on a place away from it all (though it might cost you a few hundred bucks to get there). Through Dec. 17, the recently expanded (125 rooms) and refurbished Turtle Beach Hotel on the Caribbean island of Tobago is offering double rooms for $72 a night. That includes sunfish, windsurfing, snorkeling and tennis. Information: Turtle Beach, c/o Mars Leisure, 620 Shrewsbury Ave., Red Bank, N.J. 07701; 800-221-1831 (800-221-1832 in New Jersey).

IN THE BLACK. The Lackawanna Coal Mine Tour, near Scranton, takes visitors 300 feet down into the anthracite. Retired miners describe the work they used to do, and there's a chance to grab a piece of coal. One-hour tours are offered from 11 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. every day through October. They cost $4.75 for adults, $2.75 for children. Information: 717-963-6463.

UP NORTH. AlaskaPass offers unlimited surface transportation (ferries, railroads and bus lines) around the biggest state, providing savings for independent travelers. The prices are $389 for eight days, $599 for two weeks and $699 for three weeks. Information: 800-248-7598.

OK. Oklahoma doesn't exactly spring to mind as a top spot for a vacation, which may be why the state has prepared a lush, 100-page vacation guide. It can direct you to dinosaur tracks; the cave in which the Younger brothers, Belle Starr and the James Gang hid out; lots of Indian festivals and monuments; the National Cowboy Hall of Fame; even a museum devoted to movie cowboy Gene Autry and located, logically, in Gene Autry, Okla. The directory is free from: Oklahoma Literature Distribution Center, Box 60000, Oklahoma City, Okla. 73146; 800-652-6552 or 405-521-2409.

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